September 15, 2010, 10:52 AM — In ancient times, the elite read their sacred writings, histories, philosophical musings and more on materials such as clay tablets, papyrus leaves and vellum scrolls. Somewhere around the first century, the paper-and-ink book appeared, and the invention of the mechanical printing press in the 15th century brought the printed word to the masses. Now, for the first time in centuries, how we read is undergoing a revolutionary transformation.
Welcome to the world of the e-reader.
Join us as we take a look at the current e-reader market -- not an easy task, since it's constantly in flux -- to determine the current state of the technology, and ponder the industry's burning question du jour: Will dedicated e-readers disappear now that tablets are starting to appear?
A constantly changing market
E-readers -- as well as tablets that provide e-reader capabilities -- are among the fastest-growing segments of the electronics industry. For example, during a session on e-readers that the International Digital Publishing Forum conducted at BookExpo America in May, several of the panelists emphasized the smashing success of e-readers during the 2009 holiday season.
It's also changing rapidly. In the six weeks we spent testing units and writing our reviews, the e-book and e-reader industries morphed almost beyond recognition. The two biggest e-reader vendors -- Amazon and Barnes & Noble -- dramatically reduced their prices, and two others -- Plastic Logic and Kno -- canceled or delayed long-announced, highly anticipated products.